How FICO Credit Scores Are Calculated
Since our world is so automated, it's probably not that surprising that your creditworthiness boils down to one number. All the years you've been paying your various bills: your mortgage, vehicle payments, and credit card bills are analyzed, sliced, spindled and mutilated into a single indicator of whether you're likely to meet your future obligations.
TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, the three major credit agencies, each have their own proprietary formula for building your credit score. The original FICO score was developed by Fair Isaac and Company. While Experian still calls its score "FICO", TransUnion calls its score "Beacon" and Equifax uses "Empirica." While each of the models considers a range of data available in your credit report, each agency uses the following to build your credit score:
- Your Credit History - How many years have you had credit?
- Late Payments - Do you pay your bills on time?
- Credit Card Balances - How many accounts do you carry? How much do you owe on your accounts?
- Inquiries on Your Credit - How many times have lenders pulled your credit report for the purpose of lending you money?
These factors are weighted a little bit differently depending on which formula the agency uses. The results are added up and distilled into a single number. FICO scores range from 300 to 800. Higher is always better. Most borrowers getting a mortgage in the current environment have a score above 620.
Not just for qualifying
Did you know? Credit scores are used for more than just determining whether or not you qualify for a mortgage. Higher scores indicate you are a better credit risk, and thus may qualify for a better mortgage rate.
Improving your score
What can you do to improve your FICO score? Very little in the short term. Some companies promise quick fixes, but they can't do anything different than what you can do — for free. (Of course you must remove incorrect data on your credit report.)
How do I find out my FICO score?
Before you can improve your FICO score, you have to know your score and be sure that the reports from each credit reporting agency are correct. Fair Isaac, the company that invented the first FICO score, sells credit scores on its website: myFICO.com. It's inexpensive, fast, and easy to get your credit score along with credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies. They also provide information and online tools that can help you understand how to improve your FICO score.
You can get a federally-mandated free credit report once a year from all three credit reporting agencies when you visit AnnualCreditReport.com. You won't get a free credit score from AnnualCreditReport.com, but getting one is quick and very inexpensive.
Now that you have all the facts, you'll be a more informed consumer and you'll be better positioned to obtain the right mortgage for you.